• Costa Rica

Program Details

Jul 13, 2020
Dec 26, 2022
39 travelers are looking at this program

About Program

With almost six percent of the world's biodiversity in Costa Rica, it’s a country teeming with various species and ecosystems. Opportunities range from species specific projects and wildlife conservation to various community development programs.

All GVI programs ensure that you will be contributing towards sustainable objectives that have been carefully aligned with the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, and support the protection of Costa Rican ecology and the empowerment of local communities.

This allows you to experience the abounding nature of the country, like trekking through the densely populated rainforests, summiting some of the countries most scenic volcanic formations, relaxing on an idyllic beach shore, or going on zip-lining and kayaking adventures in your free time.

Video and Photos

Program Highlights

  • Build on and improve your skills in marine and wildlife conservation, community development, education, and language acquisition.
  • Learn about the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and contribute towards long-term objectives.
  • Become a global citizen as you immerse in and better understand different cultures, traditions, customs, and ethnic cuisines.
  • Live and travel in Costa Rica, connecting with the local community and other international volunteers.
  • Improve your future employment opportunities, with hands on practical experiences and a larger database of knowledge.

Popular Programs

Wildlife in Costa Rica

Based in Jalova’s Tortuguero National Park, known for an intense mix of bird species, amphibians, reptiles and wildlife, your participation supports the long-term conservation of the national park’s protection and management. Conduct research on Jaguars, turtle nesting surveys, and monitor nesting sites while being surrounded by tropical vegetation.

Volunteer working with a child in Costa Rica

Teach English to varying age-groups in the local community, including topics like conservation awareness, while also having the option to learn Spanish. Develop leadership skills in education and contribute towards collaborative community development efforts. You will also have the opportunity to explore national parks and beaches, participate in white-water rafting adventures, or enjoy canopy and coffee-related tours in your own time.

Students doing wildlife photography in Costa Rica

This is a great way to develop your skills while living in a national park, surrounded by the world's most biodiverse rainforests. This project inspires practical, in-depth photography and conservation research and awareness training that supports the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water, and Goal 15: Life on Land.

Wild bird in Costa Rica

With over 800 bird species found in the country, this is a project that immerses you in the practicalities of bird ecology. While living in Tortuguero National Park, surrounded by dense rainforest, you’ll gain skills in conservation research by recording, processing and analysing data. You’ll also learn to identify various birds and other species, with further opportunity to work on additional research projects. Your contributions assist with the UN Sustainable Development Goal 15: Life On Land.

Wild jaguar in Costa Rica

By better understanding the behaviour and ecology of the stealthy Jaguar, local organisations and Costa Rican government are better equipped to protect this fast declining species and preserve their natural habitats. You will live in a national park setting up camera traps, learning biodiversity survey techniques, and monitoring turtles and nesting sites, where Jaguars are known to prey on adult sea turtles.

Program Reviews

4.75 Rating
based on 52 reviews
  • 5 rating 84.62%
  • 4 rating 9.62%
  • 3 rating 1.92%
  • 2 rating 3.85%
  • 1 rating 0%
  • Impact 4.55
  • Support 4.65
  • Fun 4.65
  • Value 4.55
  • Safety 4.65
Showing 1 - 8 of 52 reviews
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Once in a lifetime experience

I recently spent four weeks volunteering with GVI in Cahuita, Costa Rica. It truly was a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget. After only four weeks I had completely fallen in love with the staff, the other volunteers, and the work we were doing in Cahuita National Park.

We spent most of our days conducting surveys in Cahuita National Park. The surveys contributed to Cahuita National Park's conservation efforts. While on a survey, it was common to see sloths, raccoons, eyelash palm vipers, monkeys, and a few different species of frogs and lizards.

For the birders out there, we conducted several surveys solely dedicated to research on the birds in Cahuita National Park. I saw violaceous and slaty-tailed trogons, keel-billed toucans, white-collared manakins, montezuma oropendolas, and countless other bird species on a regular basis.
We also had the opportunity to watch the migration of several migratory bird species, such as the osprey, turkey vulture and swaisons hawk, from a bird tower in the heart of the Kéköldi Indigenous Reserve. From the top of the bird tower you have a beautiful view of the ocean, the surrounding forest, and the birds flying overhead. We were able to watch the birds fly right above us and help Kéköldi hawkwatch count the migrating birds.

On the weekends, myself, and the other volunteers spent our time exploring Cahuita and neighboring places. We visited the Jaguar Rescue Center in Limón. We went snorkeling at Punta Cahuita. We went shopping and visited the white sand beaches in Puerto Viejo.

Volunteering with GVI in Cahuita, Costa Rica is the ideal opportunity for any animal lover interested in studying and protecting the incredible wildlife in Costa Rica. And, in addition, to being an amazing experience, volunteering with GVI is a worthwhile way to jumpstart a career in conservation. Those looking for a meaningful way to spend a gap year or semester; those who are considering a career in conservation, or those who are simply interested in doing a little bit of good while living on the coast in one of the most picturesque countries in the world, should check out this program.

33 people found this review helpful.
Response from GVI

Hi Zoe!

Thank you for your wonderful review! I'm so happy you had such a valuable experience in Cahuita and that you were able to explore neighboring areas in your free time. Thank you again for the impact you made during this program, we hope to see you back in the future!

Tiffany (GVI Outreach Team)

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Volunteer Costa Rica

Never felt the intensity like that going to another country by myself and feeling secure soon as I met up with Gvi and from there on was amazing. With that being said my time on base was amazing no phones so basically you and your group socializing and getting to know about other cultures. Being on surveys I always knew I’d see something and maybe you don’t but being out there all you can do is believe you will. On the way to base the first thing we saw was a jaguar track and that let me know I’m in for a crazy experience that I can’t live down

  • Friends
  • Experience
68 people found this review helpful.
Response from GVI

Hey Devin - thanks for your beautiful review!

Amazing news to hear that you had such an unforgettable, action-packed, and soul-enriching time with us at GVI. I am thrilled to hear that you enjoyed your time with us as much as you did. Your hard work and efforts have certainly impacted this project in a meaningful way. Please do keep on spreading your love for GVI. We look forward to welcoming you back on base (with open arms) and continuing to make an impact.

Kajsa (UK Outreach)

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

A trip to go back to

Have you ever tried to just focus on one thing at a time. No distraction. No influence. My experience with GVI was a bit like that, you see I could fully immerse myself with wildlife, from the moment I woke up right to patrol at night counting turtle eggs. The staff was also brilliant, not only were they a crucial part to my leaning because of their experience mixed with knowledge but they were always positive. I think that was very important because it allowed a safe environment to learn but also a good place to be interactive with both staff and other volunteers. I've enjoyed my stay so much that even though I've been back from this experience for a few days I'm planning to return next year! If I could give two pieces of advice to anyone going is that A) you should really consider to do 4 weeks+ this is because you start having all the opportunities but as soon as you get used to it you leave. B) bring an outfit in a ziplock bag for your flight home because your clothes will smell of Jalova. but just to recap, it's one of the best experience you can get not only to work on conservation but also yourself

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
I think my first day, I went out on surveys ( I arrived 2 days late). And I had no clue what they were saying; but in my 4 weeks there I started to understand what they were saying and even teaching the new group that came along.
85 people found this review helpful.
Response from GVI

Tea, thanks for your review! I'm so happy to hear you had such a great experience with us. We welcome you back to base again sometime in the future. In the meantime, please do keep on spreading your GVI love!

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Tropical wildlife

I've spent two month in Jalova scientific base in Costa Rica. It is located in Tortuguero National Park, in the middle of the rainforest just next to the Caribbean sea. It's been a wonderful experience, both social and scientifically enriching. I've loved my trip here and it taught me a lot about local species, biodiversity conservation and more specifically about jaguars, especially jaguar behavioring here in TNC, sea turtles and also birds. Everyday, we could learn something new or see species that we've never seen before as, around base, biodiversity is incredible and really unique.
Moreover, life on base was very basic. For example, we took water from a well and at night we were using torches; nevertheless it was such a good experience to live like this and we didn't feel like missing something, just adapting to live in the middle of the jungle without a lot of electricity and mosquitos instead.
People around here are really nice and friendly as well, and most of all very open minded which helps making your trip even better and enriching.
Finally, it was worth the trip to see all these different species of animals such as amphibians, reptiles, mammals, bugs and a lot of birds. I was impressed by the staff's knowledge about that and learned a lot in the field.
Finally, we could enjoy our free time by relaxing on the beach, reading a book, cooking for everybody, gardening, going birding in the coco plantation next to base or even building a new ping pong area at the time I was on base which was a really good experience too.
All volunteers feel involved in the conservation programs on base and all of our activities were important for the data, so I would say that volunteering in Jalova is really worth it.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Don't forget insect repellant and be aware of mosquitos, ants, spiders and others kind bugs bites ! They will bjte you anyway !
95 people found this review helpful.
Response from GVI

Hey Emma, thanks for your review! I'm thrilled to hear you had such a positive experience with us and enjoyed your time on base as much as you did. We'd love to have you back on base sometime soon!

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

What are you waiting for?? Book with GVI now!!

GVI is an incredible company! From start to finish you are supported by the wonderful team and as soon as you touch down on location you are treated as though you are extended family. In terms of the volunteer and intern programmes, there is an amazing variety of programmes to choose from whatever you interests and focuses are and not only do you get the most incredible experiences and memories but you are also making a positive impact to the local community so it’s a win win all round.

My first experience with GVI was backed in 2014 when I was a free 18 year old looking for a new experience with a great impact on the local community. The moment I booked the programme I was giving all the details and information needed to make sure I felt happy and organised before I departed. On touch down I was greeted and picked up by a member of the GVI staff, he was friendly and welcoming and made me feel at ease within seconds. During my time at the base we became on big family, we shared so many amazing experiences together from being together in schools, meeting incredible teachers and children and participating in school events (we did a dance performance together and helped each class create their dances as well). Outside of volunteering we had ample time to explore all that Costa Rica has to offer. I think I came back with over 3000 photos and videos of my time away and so many memories that still make my tummy hurt from laughing at them. My one recommendation when going away is to throw yourself into everything and anything, I promise you won't regret it! I was so sad when the time came for me to leave, and if I didn't have other plans set in motion I was of 100% asked to extend my time.

I am fortunate enough to be going away again with GVI again as an intern this time around and I look forward to many more trips and seeing what happens in the future as well.

So….what are you waiting for?! Go book now you won’t regret it!!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
If I could give one piece of advice for anyone going away, then it would be to throw yourself into anything and everything that comes your way and embrace the local community as if you lived there. You will have some unforgettable experiences both whilst on project and in your spare time as well.
91 people found this review helpful.
Response from GVI

Hey Sophie, thanks for your great review! I am thrilled to hear that you enjoyed your time with us as much as you did. Your hard work and efforts have certainly impacted this project in a meaningful way. Please do keep on spreading your love for GVI. And obviously, we would love to see you back on base soon!

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program


I lived in the heart of Tortuguero National Park for 10 weeks! It was the most amazing experience I have ever had. I learned about biodiversity and wildlife conservation. I stayed on the Jalova base helping with Forest surveys and beach surveys to gather information for the national park and the CJC. I 100% recommend volunteering through GVI, especially in Costa Rica. My favorite thing in Jalova was learning about sea turtles because I have a passion for reptiles. They are amazing creatures and we get to work up close with them.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
I saw a hawksbill sea turtle!! It was so amazing and she was beautiful.
101 people found this review helpful.
Response from GVI

Hey Kira, thanks for your review! I'm thrilled to hear you had such a positive experience with us and enjoyed your time on base as much as you did. We'd love to have you back on base sometime soon!

Default avatar
Chai Hong
Yes, I recommend this program

Enchanting Costa Rica

I am a serial GVI volunteer, having done stints on marine conservation programmes in Mexico, Fiji and the Seychelles since 2018. This year, I decided to try a terrestrial programme instead and chose the Costa Rica wildlife conservation programme at Jalova in Tortuguero national park.

I’m so glad I did - I had a fantastic, action-packed and soul-enriching time.

In common with other GVI bases, the staff were passionate and eager to share their knowledge while also ensuring we volunteers had fun.

The work was so rewarding - I did the 28km jagwalk: the programme’s key data gathering exercise, which looks for evidence of jaguar predation on sea turtles and also the distribution of the big cats in Tortuguero national park, one of the densest populations of the wild felids in the world. I learned so much about camera-trapping and jaguar behaviour.

I also loved learning to ID the target birds, not just visually but by their calls too, so forest surveys - in flooded swamps to dense forests to night trails - were eye- and ear-opening, even if the mosquitos and swarms of other bugs were sometimes a challenge. ;-) I also went on night turtle patrols and morning nest checks - green turtle season hadn't quite started, but one morning last week, we did a leatherback nest excavation (to check on hatching success) after spotting little tracks left by hatchlings - only to find a live baby turtle which was just a little slower than the others. So we had to dig a little trench on the side and bury it so it could continue to strengthen its flippers as it clambered out for the battles ahead with the waves, and also to allow it to imprint on the location and get its internal GPS aligned with the Earth's magnetic field. Utterly magic!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Be prepared: Jalova base is remote and has very basic facilities - the solar-generated electricity can sometimes be limited, water is from a well or collected rainwater, and the base is about 45 minutes by boat from the nearest town. The heat and humidity, and mosquitos, wasps and fire ants can sometimes be a bit much. But having said all that, it fosters a real community spirit and kindness on base. And the dawn chorus of birdsong has to be heard to be believed.
110 people found this review helpful.
Response from GVI

Chai, thanks for your review! I'm so happy to hear you have had such great experiences with us. We welcome you back to base again sometime in the future. In the meantime, please do keep on spreading your GVI love!

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

A review of living in the jungles of Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Living in the jungles of costa rica is simply put, amazing, the wildlife is awe-inspiring, the scenery gorgeous and up-lifting. Whilst the there are many wonders to behold, there are still drawbacks to be aware of, many will find the very rural living, insects and lack of comforts we find ourselves enjoying in normal life difficult to cope with while staying there. However if you are truly passionate about wildlife, nature and exploration you will find yourself adjusting to these discomforts and especially in the lack of connectivity to modern society rather refreshing

What was your funniest moment?
it would most likely be the time that the local cows occupied the base by breaking the gate, with a rather manic 5am cow herding ensuing
107 people found this review helpful.
Response from GVI

Hey Finn, thanks for your review! You are always welcome to come back as quickly as you like! We'd love to have your input and passion back on base.

Questions & Answers